The future is green with industrial hemp: Top uses for Cannabis sativa

On Monday, the Florida Senate Agriculture Committee approved a bill to create a regulatory framework for the newly legalized industrial hemp industry in America. The Sunshine State is on the verge of becoming a “hemp pioneer.” The notorious plant has been grown for 10,000 years but its use in agriculture has suffered from its association with marijuana. It might be similar to thinking a tomato plant and deadly nightshade are the same things, but they are only in the same family. Nevertheless, it was outlawed in America in 1970 until recently.

 

President Trump recognized the value of industrial hemp when he signed the 2018 Farm Bill in December 2018. The legislation paves the way for the use of hemp, hulled hemp seeds, hemp seed protein, and hemp seed oil, but the use of the non-psychoactive cannabidiol, or CBD, is still a little confusing. The FDA still regulates cannabis-derived compounds like CBD more closely. Nevertheless, each individual state in the country can enact their own laws related to growing industrial hemp.

 

If you were to smoke the flowers of the industrial hemp plant, Forbes notes you might get a headache. Hemp contains extremely low quantities of THC, the psychoactive component that produces a high. On the other hand, hemp has countless uses, and grows in diverse conditions. It could be the perfect plant for climates such as Florida where the effects of climate change are more and more noticeable.

 

Now that farmers will have the opportunity to grow industrial hemp, let’s take a look at some of the top uses for this amazingly versatile and useful crop.

 

Hemp resists climate change

 

Cannabis Reports notes the hemp grows in a wide range of conditions, growing quickly with leaves that block out competing weeds. For areas prone to drought with soils stripped of nutrients, hemp can be a profitable crop that can thrive where other crops would fail. It uses half the water needed for a crop of corn and leaves the soil in good shape. It tolerates a wide variety of soils, can withstand wide temperature ranges, is resistant to pests and mold, and best of all, it grows extremely fast, reaching 20 feet in 100 days. Its deep tap roots mean it doesn’t need irrigation. No wonder it was one of the first plants cultivated by humans in China.

 

 

Hemp is a biodegradable alternative to plastic

 

As we regularly witness horrifying stories about sea creatures left to die in an ocean polluted with plastics, it’s wonderful to know that hemp fibers can produce a biodegradable alternative to plastic. It has all the capabilities of synthetic plastics but doesn’t end up killing off wildlife or contaminating the environment. Already, major companies like Coca Cola are experimenting with plant-based plastic substitutes.

 

Hemp is the construction material of the future

 

Here is where hemp really seems to have superpowers. Construction materials using hemp are cheaper, yet have some stunning advantages.

 

Hempcrete is lighter than traditional concrete, yet has better insulation and fire resistance.

 

Hemp can be used in a steel substitute which is ten times stronger than steel alone.

 

Hemp fiber can save countless trees in products like flooring, insulation, and roofing. Those materials are stronger and more resistant to damage from weather events.

 

Hemp saves trees

 

Since hemp reaches harvest time in four months and produces 4 times more paper per acre than a traditional tree, it’s as if trees are obsolete for a wide variety of uses. That leaves trees to do what they are best at – helping produce oxygen and combat the problems of climate change. Of course, the hemp plants also help absorb excess CO2 where it remains locked away from the atmosphere when used as construction materials.

 

According to Green Matters, each kilogram of hemp sequesters about 1.8–2 kilograms of carbon dioxide at a very low cost. In addition, there is zero waste since all parts of the plant can be used for a wide variety of products.

 

 

Hemp is an alternative to fossil fuels

 

The hemp plant has unlimited potential, providing a means to produce a green biofuel alternative to fossil fuels which doesn’t have to be drilled out of the ground.

 

The Huffington Post noted:

 

“At one time, none other than Henry Ford produced a car whose frame was partially made of hemp and whose engine could be powered with hemp fuel.”

If only America had continued down Henry Ford’s road from there, right? Now that industrial hemp is legal, large bumper crops of hemp could make biofuels made from hemp economically viable. Currently, hemp crops are a niche market going mostly towards uses in food, but if a surplus of hemp is produced, the cost for hemp biofuel would go down enough to be competitive.

 

 

 

Hemp textiles are amazing

 

Hemp can be used to make clothing last longer and can be made into just about any kind of apparel, from lingerie to jeans. In a world where the UV rays of the sun are an issue, the fibers can serve as a natural sunscreen. Hemp can also be used for fabrics, rope, and other textiles.

 

According to HempBenefits.org:

 

“Textile hemp also blocks 50 percent more ultra violet rays than cotton. Even if only 50% hemp is used in a textile product, it is still able to offer the same level of blockage to UV rays.”

 

Human and pet food

 

As if all of this were not enough, you and your cat can eat products made from hemp and derive health benefits. The oil can be used in salads. The hemp seeds are nutritious like nuts. The plant can be used for flour and is high in essential fatty and amino acids as well as protein. Livestock, pets, and birds can all enjoy products made from hemp.

 

 

The use of cannabidiol (CBD) in diverse food products will no doubt be a multimillion-dollar industry. Already it hs turned up in a wide variety of products like beverages, health products, and pet snacks. So far, it’s still considered a drug ingredient. Some strong but unsubstantiated clinical research suggests that CBD could be a cure-all miracle drug that can reduce pain and eradicate cancer. However, at present, FDA regulations determine how CBD can be used in America.

 

This is just a small list of the seemingly never-ending list of uses for industrial hemp. It seems the plant could very well contribute to reversing climate change while at the same time helping construct buildings that are better-equipped to deal with severe weather events. It may not save the planet but it will certainly help.

 


Featured image: Industrial hemp via Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

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Matthew Silvan
 

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